AGE RATINGS: Law ‘in disarray’

Retailers that sell adult movies and video games to children face no legal comeuppance, after the discovery of a Government blunder that means that the 1984 Video Recordings Act was never enacted.

According to The Times, the mistake was only spotted as the Government prepared to update the Act to include changes prescribed in the new PEGI video games classification.

Officials in the Home Office in 1984 failed to notify the European Commission of the existence of the Act, as they were required to do so under an EU directive. The mistake was not spotted on two subsequent occasions, in 1993 and 1994.

Police are to be told to stop bringing any prosecutions until the Government brings in emergency legislation to re-enact the 1984 Video Recordings Act.

Until then, retailers will be able to sell adult videos and games to under-18s without fear of prosecution.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said that it had received legal advice that people who had previously been prosecuted and convicted would be unable to overturn their convictions or seek compensation.

Barbara Follett, Minister for Culture and Tourism, said last night: Unfortunately, the discovery of this omission means that, a quarter of a century later, the Video Recordings Act is no longer enforceable against individuals in United Kingdom courts.”

In a letter to representatives of the video industry, Ms Follett said: As the then British Government did not notify the European Commission of the VRA’s classification and labelling requirements, they cannot now be enforced against individuals in UK courts.”

Lavinia Carey, Director General of the British Video Association said:

BVA distributors will continue to conduct their business as usual, submitting works to the BBFC for classification and wording for consumer advice on packaging so that the public can continue to rely on the labelling supplied by responsible video distributors.”

The BVA represents 90% of the industry and our members would not capitalise on this legal loophole by releasing titles that had been banned or cut for public consumption during the period that the Video Recordings Act can not be enforced by British courts.

Our members will continue to retail products in the same way, remaining compliant with the provisions of the VRA on a voluntary and best practise basis.”

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